Although many people use the terms “editing” and “proofreading” interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. While both demand close reading, they focus on different aspects of the writing process and employ different techniques. Editing should happen after a rough draft has been established; proofreading should be done during the final stage of the editing process. If you are editing an academic paper, be sure to check for transitions between paragraphs, sufficient evidence, and that the document is clear and well organized. When proofreading, focus on the surface of the writing, looking for mistakes in grammar and punctuation. Below are some basic areas and questions to consider when editing, although they will not apply to every piece of written material.
- Are your claims accurate?
- Is all of your information relevant to your overall writing goal?
- Have you supported your claims with adequate evidence?
- Does your piece have an appropriate introduction and conclusion?
- Do your paragraphs contribute towards your main thesis/ argument?
- Are your paragraphs in logical sequence?
- Have you included transitions between paragraphs so that the overall product flows?
- Is anything standing out that is still unclear?
- Does your wording make sense?
- Have you used an appropriate tone: formal, informal, persuasive, etc.?
- Do you have any words that are repeated too often?
- Is your use of gendered language appropriate (masculine and feminine pronouns like “he” or “she”)?
Tips for Both Editing & Proofreading:
- Get some distance from the text. It’s very hard to edit and proofread a paper you have just written, because the material is too familiar. If at all possible, put the document aside for a couple of hours to clear your head. This way, you can take a fresh look and avoid skipping over a bunch of errors.
- Decide what medium is the most effective for you. Some people prefer using the computer to edit and proofread, while others prefer printing the material out and marking it up with a pen or pencil. Remember, spellcheck is not always correct! Printing the paper out is usually the best option.
- A great way to check clarity is to read your document aloud, one sentence at a time.
- Reading your document backwards, by starting from the end and working your way up is also a great technique. This helps to prevent unconsciously filling in words that aren’t already there.
- Try to look at the document from a different perspective. Sometimes altering the overall look of your document can trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing something new. Altering the size, spacing, and/ or color might help with this.
- Edit and proofread in a place with little to no distractions. Usually this is a quiet place, away from phones and television.
- If at all possible, try to space out blocks of time for your editing and proofreading rather than doing it all at once. You are more likely to catch errors this way and your concentration is least likely to wane.
- Give your document to a trusted individual to look over. Having a fresh set of eyes view your work for the first time could be very beneficial!
Hopefully these pointers are helpful! If you are interested in taking editing to a whole new level, consider our Keys to Effective Editing Course and learn the fundamentals for editing texts as well as the components of developing relationships between editors, publishers, and authors! We also have many other writing courses that you can check out, here!